A Des Plaines alderman wants to end the city government's longtime practice of making health insurance benefits available to elected officials -- but many of them are against the proposed policy change.
Third Ward Alderman Denise Rodd and Mayor Matt Bogusz are the only members of the city council to decline participation in the city's health insurance plan, which is the same one offered to all full-time city employees.
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Rodd said she believes elected officials aren't employees and thinks the money saved by ending the practice -- about $118,000 projected in this year's budget -- could be better spent elsewhere. She's proposing new rules go into effect for officials elected after 2015.
"I wasn't given an interview. I don't have an office, or dress code or supervisor," Rodd argues.
"I volunteered to run for office, and I was put here by the citizens of Des Plaines. Whether they knew health or dental was going to be part of my compensation or not, it certainly wasn't the reason I ran."
Rodd was elected in 2013.
"I think when we're asking the city to be fiscally responsible and when the finance director has done so much work to make our budget what it is today, we need to look at ourselves and what we can do better," she said.
A survey of 19 communities, conducted by the Northwest Municipal Conference, found that Palatine and Schaumburg also offer health insurance to elected officials.
The village of Palatine pays 90 percent of each person's premium cost, while Schaumburg doesn't cover any part of the premiums.
In Des Plaines, the city pays 88 percent of the premium costs.
Records show the seven other Des Plaines aldermen and the city clerk have taken the city-funded health insurance.
Rodd said the issue has been discussed by residents at 3rd Ward meetings for years.
No one seems to know when Des Plaines aldermen started getting health insurance. There's nothing in the city's codes that mentions it.
Rodd believes it's just been "tradition."
"It probably goes back to when there was a mayoral form of government," she said. "It was a different atmosphere."
Under the current council-manager form of government, aldermen are listed on the city's compensation report as "part-time" officials who receive annual salaries of $4,800 and have expense allowances of $1,800. The mayor is paid $12,000 and has an allowance of $2,400. The city clerk is paid $6,000.
So far, Rodd says her proposal has the support of 7th Ward Alderman Joanna Sojka, but other aldermen have been hard to convince.
Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten said he sees no reason to stop offering insurance.
"People think they can come up with better ways to use money any time," Walsten said. "I just wish she would try to find something a little more creative as far as bringing businesses and more revenue to the city than something like this.
"It's really very small, when the budget comes to over a $100 million."
Rodd said money saved could be better allocated to nonprofit organizations the city helps fund every year, as well as the city's health and human services department.
She said she wants to put the issue up for discussion as early as the council's April 21 meeting.
Rodd said she declined the city's health insurance even though it would be cheaper for her than getting insurance through her husband's employment, which she currently does.